By Rosie Driscoll
On Jan. 24, Student Government debated and ultimately voted down a bill that would have amended our constitution to define a “smart casual” dress code — a step below business casual, and two steps below our unofficial, de facto, business professional dress code. The bill’s intention was to make SG more accessible to those who may not own or cannot afford professional wear.
I have heard that many students view SG as elitist. If that is truly the case then it is our job, as per the College’s mission statement of inclusion, to change that.
Before joining SG my junior year, I was largely unaware of the weight of its influence — students who attend governance meetings affect the policies that shape our experience as students. If the voices of SG representatives are not diverse and representative of the entire student body, we as a governing body fail in our sworn duty to protect all students at the College.
I come from a middle-class family, so I can afford to buy the clothes I need to meet the unofficial business professional standards. The median family income for a student of the College is $133,000, which means 62 percent of us are members of the top 20 percent income bracket in New Jersey, and only four percent are in the bottom 20 percent, according to The New York Times.
Although SG’s dress code is feasible for most students, we cannot ignore the four percent of students who may not be able to afford professional attire. Their voices, experiences and needs must be considered as valuable as any other student’s. If we cannot even get them in the room, our institutional mission of inclusion amounts to empty words.
The College’s diversity and inclusion policy encompasses race, gender, class, ability, sexuality and ethnic diversity. One reason I decided to join SG was because I felt the LGBTQ+ community was not adequately represented in its general body.
This bill would not have forced anyone to dress less professionally, but would instead have allowed those who do not own such professional attire to participate in SG without shame.
I am disappointed that this bill did not pass, and I urge my fellow student representatives to consider if there has ever been a time in their lives when they did not have access to something they needed. They should consider how their college experience would differ if they could not afford to “dress the part,” pay organizational dues, buy a round of drinks or order takeout.
If there is a barrier to class diversity in SG, it should be removed. None of us enjoy being excluded — we need to start working towards inclusion.
“If you’re from a low-income area, you might not feel comfortable getting involved in all activities.”
“Low-income students may feel like they don’t fit in, which can affect their confidence.”